Farmers and Indigenous People Denounce Patents on Maca

    ETC Group –Agencia Latinoamericana de Informacion

    July 12, 2002

    Organizations of Indigenous people and farmers from the Amazon and Andean regions gathered on June 23 in the offices of the Lima’s Ecological Forum in Peru to formally denounce the authorization of U.S. patents on maca, a plant grown in the
    Andes by indigenous people from the highland of Puna, Peru. Maca has been cultivated for centuries in the Andes and is used
    as a basic foodstuff, as well as for medicinal purposes. Currently, products derived from the maca plant are marketed as a natural sexual stimulant and fertility enhancer. Demand for maca is growing in the United States, Europe and Japan. Maca
    exports have the potential to open new markets and generate income for Peruvian farmers, but the recent patents issued in the U.S. could close these opportunities to the original cultivators of the plant.

    "The Andean region has become the "world capital of biopiracy". Patents monopolizing our food crops and medicinal plants are a very grave offense," according to Efrain Zunia Molina of the Association of Maca Producers of the Mantaro Valley. "We have seen patents issued for ayahuasca, quinoa, yacon and the nuna bean, and now for maca" says Molina.

    "These patents are to be authorized for "new inventions", but we all know that cultivation of these plants is based on traditional
    knowledge and the resources of the indigenous people, according to Gladis Vila Pihue, a representative of the Association of Maca Growers of the Huncavelica Department (Peru).

    The farmers demand that the U.S. companies drop all patents for maca related products and that the Peruvian government
    and the International Organization of Intellectual Property investigate and condemn attempts to monopolize maca production expropriated from the indigenous and peasant knowledge base ( the OMPI, based in Geneva, Switzerland, promoted intellectual property rights as a means of protecting indigenous knowledge.)

    Patents on Maca

    Patent No. US y,267,995 Pure World Botanicals, Inc. Authorized: july 31, 2001. Extract of Lepidium Meyenii root used in pharmaceuticals. Requests pending in Australia, European Office of Patents, and the OMPI.

    Patent No. US 6,093, 421 Biotics Research Corporation. Authorized: july 25, 2000. Title: Maca and CORNAMENTA to increase testosterone levels.

    Request for patent no. US 878,141 Pure World Botanicals, Inc. Published April 11, 2002. Lepidium composition and
    methods for preparation.

    The coalition is also demanding that the International Potato Center (based in Lima), promoter and repository for maca seeds, take action to prohibit any attempts to gain intellectual property rights over maca seeds and byproducts currently present in the gene bank, as well as the traditional knowledge surrounding maca in the indigenous communities. The groups are demanding that the CIP issue a declaration to stop the patenting of GERMOPLASMA of Andean plants and their genetic
    components, as well as the indigenous knowledge associated with these resources. 

    The CIP is one of sixteen international centers of investigation comprising the Consultative Group for International Agricultural
    Investigation (CGIAR), the largest network of public agricultural research. The CGIAR was formed to safeguard the genetic
    diversity of crops.

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